Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Whiskey Wednesday: Parker's Heritage Collection 27 year old

Last year, I reviewed the massive Bourbon that is Parker's Heritage Collection. The more recent version of this Heaven Hill Bourbon is 27 years old (the previous edition had no age statement but was about ten years) but isn't cask strength like its predecessor.

Just a few years ago, it was unthinkable to age a Bourbon for nearly 30 years. Bourbon, the theory went, was best at about 10 years and would be harsh and overly oaked and anything over 15. Unlike Scotch, Bourbon is aged in new, oak barrels, so the oak comes through faster and stronger than for Scotch whiskies aged in used barrels. Lately though, Heaven Hill has been pushing the age envelope. They have 21and 23 year old versions of their Rittenhouse Rye and now this. At 27 years old, this is the oldest Bourbon I've ever tasted. Let's see how it holds up.


Parker's Heritage Collection, 27 years old (Heaven Hill), 48% alcohol ($185).

The nose is on this thing is huge, swimming with vanilla, maple syrup and some fruit along with polished wood. There's some quick sweet, caramel taste on the palate and then an acidic, citrus flavor, then there's a blast of wood that lingers into the finish, which is very nice. While there is wood here, I would never guess that this is a 27 year old whiskey. The wood is much less dominant than in many younger whiskies I've had. It also tastes more like a wheat Bourbon recipe than a rye recipe, but I have not seen anything definitive from the company about which recipe they used (Heaven Hill has both).

Side by side with the younger, previous incarnation of Parker's Heritage, the 2007 is the stronger whiskey. The strange thing is that the younger version tastes, well, older. It has the thick mouthfeel and musty, woody taste that I associate with older Bourbons, especially those from Heaven Hill. The 27 year old, meanwhile, carries that acidity, which is a bit sharp. Between the two, I prefer the first edition of Parker's. The older version is interesting but not as spot on with its flavors.

The 27 year old Parker's Heritage runs more than double the price of the previous incarnation. My advice is to get the older one if you can still find it, and I have occasionally seen it still on the shelves.

Last week, Heaven Hill announced that the third edition of Parker's Heritage Collection will include whiskey from as far back as the 1960s. Despite my misgivings about the 27 year old, Heaven Hill is clearly on a creative roll here, and the fun just keeps coming.

1 comment:

Rabbi Charles Arian said...

We visited Heaven Hill a few weeks ago and the guide explained that they didn't actually intend to bottle and sell a 17 year old bourbon. Those warehouses are huge and they only started bar-coding the barrels very recently. Heaven Hill has about 800,000 barrels aging at any time and sometimes barrels get lost. They found a few 27 year old barrels and didn't even know if the whiskey would be any good until they opened them. A barrel loses about 4% a year to evaporation so a 27 year old barrel would have very little whiskey left by the time it was dumped.